Bob Johnson's Blog on Higher Education Marketing

May 2013 Archives

This Thursday and Friday I'll be in Boston for the third annual "Writing Right for the Web" conference sponsored by Academic Impressions. We've done them in San Diego and Atlanta and I'm looking forward to meeting the people who will be with us this week.

The war on "Black Hat" SEO continues

An "extra" session on Friday will focus on writing and editing for search engine optimization. 

To help make sure I'm still close to the mark on that often-changing topic I have just watched a May video from Matt Cutts at Google (What to expect in SEO in the coming months). Here are my main take-away points:
  • Google continues to search for ways to but "black hat" SEO people out of business. That's great. I get regular offers from people who know little if anything about me to exchange links. At least 75 percent of these folk have little if any connection with anything I write about. 
  • Quality content remains the most important element for strong SEO results. What defines "quality content"? One important element for Google is whether or not anybody reads it. The "Panda" criteria are still important: if you have a large amount of content on your website that is seldom visited by anyone, your SEO rankings will suffer. 
"Be Natural" is still the best approach

The most important point that Cutts repeats over and over again: "Be natural."
  • Use keywords and phrases, but don't overdo them. 
  • Control the "marketing speak" that appears on your site. Too many higher education sites really are like Monster University from Pixar. Don't be Monster University.
  • Give people the content you know they want, not the content you think they must read. Long, dense "Welcome" statements from presidents and deans are my favorite candidates for purging.
Give the folks at Google credit for trying to chase the snake oil salesmen from our online lives and for crafting new ways to give more weight to quality content in SEO results. They may never win the war but let's hope they get close.

And put Matt Cutts on your regular reading and viewing schedule.

That's all for now.

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May greetings to everyone. We finally have spring in Michigan and I hope you are all enjoying something similar wherever you are.

I am on my way today to the J.Boye Web and Intranet Conference in Philadelphia where I will be doing sessions on web management, top task website design, and the role of speed in creating effective websites for the mobile world. Check the sessions at and follow us on Twitter starting Tuesday at #jboye13

Registration discount for Writing Right for the Web in Boston May 30-31 lasts until May 10. Act now at and join us for facts, fun, and a better website.

The ACT Enrollment Planners Conference always is a great gathering for people with a special interest in enrollment management and marketing. If that sounds like you, plan to join us July 10-12 in Chicago. Descriptions of the pre-conference sessions including mine on online advertising are at

July 29-31 are the dates for the 2013 eduWeb Conference. Check the full schedule starting with pre-conference workshops at

And now here are your marketing news and notes for May.
University of Leiden: 500 Universities Ranked for Strength in Science

Based on scientific publications and the university affiliations of their authors, the Center for Science and Technology Studies has ranked 500 universities around the world for strength in the sciences. You can review overall rankings as well as 5 divisions within the sciences. You can sort by region and country if you wish.

Overall, MIT is first, University of Melbourne is 100, Joseph Fourier University is 200, Kansas State is 300, University Modena is 400, and Ankara University is 500. See where your university fits at
Are You a Marketer? Do You Want to Get Fired?

When it comes to web analytics, Avinash Kaushik is a genuine guru in a world where that term is used far too loosely. It is well worth the time to review why he believes marketers with an inordinate belief in "Eight Silly Data Myths" will get themselves fired.

You start with "real time data" and end with "demographics and psychographics" but do not skip the 6 points in between those. Protect your job. Start reading at
Infographic: Major Players in the Tangled MOOC University

If you have any interest in how MOOCs might impact the future of higher education you have to see this infographic from The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Venture capitalists, universities, corporations, non-profit foundations and more are all playing in this game. Get insight into how it all fits together at
Secret to Marketing Success: First Focus on Helping the Converted, Not Making New Converts

Everyone with enrollment or annual fund goals should read Gerry McGovern's latest column: From Conversions to Task Completions at

The bottom line is this: people come to your website to do something they already have in mind. Focus your content on helping people do the tasks they came to your site to do. Applications and enrollment will increase. Annual fund contributions will rise. Count on it.
Decreasing Summer Melt: What Works Best with Low-Income Students?

Here is a fascinating article in Harvard Business Review reporting the results of research on how to best decrease the summer melt of low-income students accepted to a college.

The answer: a text messaging program had a higher positive impact than a peer mentor program in some areas. In every area the cost of a text messaging program was far less than a mentor program. Check the details at and think about adjustments in your final conversion efforts.
Website Speed: Can it ever be Too Fast?

The answer is no. Google knows that. Amazon knows that. More people in higher education should pay more attention to the need for speed, particularly when making plans to use responsive design to convert desktop websites to the mobile world.

If you need help convincing people on your campus to make speed a priority, read and distribute "Why You Need a Seriously Fast Website" at
Net Price Calculator: On the Home Page at Truman State University

Schools that dare to put a link to the Net Price Calculator in prominent position on the home page truly are rare. And so recognition to Truman State for having the marketing sense to facilitate a top task of many potential students and many of their parents at

Truman joins only two others I have seen so far who dare to be different: University of Delaware and Lynn University. If I missed you, let me know. Help me start another Honor Roll.
Facebook and Enrollment Marketing

How much can Facebook help increase inquiries, applications and enrollment conversions?

Jens Larson has researched in depth just how that works at Eastern Washington University. The short answer: not as much as you might think. But in other ways, Facebook has been a valuable marketing tool. One person's in-depth look at his own university results should help others refine their social media efforts to build enrollment.

Find more on how what to expect and what not to expect from Facebook at
Parents and Price in Student Recruitment

When I analyzed responses from 6 colleges and universities in my secret shopping project from June 2012 to last February, two missing elements were a surprise. No school sent an online communication to parents until well after Labor Day. And none made any contact related to cost before October.

Read more about how you can gain competitive advantage by recognizing that cost is important to many parents. Start a parents communication program that takes advantage of price interest right from the time of first inquiry. More at
Marquette University VP for Marketing and Communication

If you are a "dynamic, innovative and visionary" person with the right skill set and experience in "marketing, communication, and branding strategies" you might be interested in this position. For more details check the posting at
Most Popular Topic Last Month: IPEDS Competitive Intelligence Ratings

Smart work by Jon Boeckenstedt at DePaul University with IPEDs data gives everyone a chance to enter up to 8 schools at a time and compare admission and graduation rates, ethnic diversity, endowment, and Pell Grant enrollment percent.

Check on your competitors at
Conferences and Webinars in 2013

May 7-9, Philadelphia: "5 Top Web Management Principles: Achieving Consensus within Your Organization" and "Winning Friends at Your Website: Use Top Task Design for a Great Experience,"
J.Boye Web and Intranet conference. Program and registration starts at

May 30-31, Boston: "Writing Right for the Web: Improving Your Institution's Web Content," Academic Impressions Conference. Details are online at

June 25, Webinar: "Improving Your Website to Increase Adult Student Enrollment," Academic Impressions. Description and registration are online now at

July 10-12, Chicago: "Advertising Online for Student Recruitment" pre-conference workshop and "Increasing Conversion: The Best (and Not So Best) Email Marketing Plans," ACT Enrollment Planners Conference. Workshop details are at

July 29-31, Boston: "Advertising Online" workshop and, with David Marshall, "An Admissions First Mobile Site," eduWeb 2013. See all the sessions at

Plan a custom presentation on your campus. Host a workshop on any of my conference presentation topics. Contact me at or call me at 248.766.6425.
That's All for Now  

Bob Johnson
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